Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection June 12, 2016
Pastor Thomas Aldworth’s Eight Annual Report to the Faith Family of Morgan Park Baptist Church
“And they went and woke him up, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’” (Matthew 8:25-26)
As I approach my eight anniversary as pastor of our beloved Morgan Park Baptist Church, I praise God for all the good God has done among us and within us. My beloved Beth and I are so encouraged by how far we have come by faith. We not only believe, we KNOW, that the Spirit of the Living God is actively doing what the Spirit does.
As I mentioned in a recent sermon, we can well resonate with the famous opening of Charles Dicken’s classic Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way …” So is our own time. So is every time.
When I look back at the past eight years at our beloved church, I see the ebbs and flows of our communal life. Since I came as pastor, 29 people from our beloved church have gone home to God. When I look at those names, I feel a depth of sadness that is almost overwhelming. So many good, gracious, sisters and brothers who now experience ultimate intimacy with the Almighty! But they are sorely missed!
We have another 12 or so members of our church who cannot come to worship because of age and health issues. They would be with us if they could! Over the past 8 years, we have had 38 people called by God to join our beloved community (this includes children!). So while we lose people called home to God, we also gain people through God’s call. Having said this, we know we need more members to sustain our fragile faith family. Yet this is, of course, all in God’s trustworthy hands.
One dimension that has encouraged me over the past few years is our growing awareness of what it means to be an American Baptist congregation. I fear that, in the not-too-distant past, our American Baptist identity was not always well understood. As an American Baptist congregation, affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA and American Baptist Churches – Metro Chicago, we are part and parcel of a mainline Protestant progressive denomination. I believe it would be misleading to advertise ourselves as an American Baptist congregation and not be deeply rooted in the principles and history of American Baptists, “the most racially inclusive Protestant body in America.”
At our church, we continue promoting health and healing for our members and the local community, including the new “For the Heart, From the Heart” series. Our “All of Paul” Bible Study has been going very well with enthusiastic participation not only from our own members but from the local community. Our newly-formed all-volunteer choir is a great addition to our worship, for which we thank the choir members and the musical leadership of our wonderful Jacob Haywood. I am also delighted that my beloved Beth continues offering professional counseling for those who might otherwise not be able to afford professional counseling. Our beloved church has become well-known for innovative and engaging spiritual and professional discussions and programs. Where are we as a beloved church? We are in the hands of our loving and all-merciful God. And as Jesus tells us: “In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33)